SIN AND SIN OFFERINGS BEAR THE SAME name in Hebrew. The sin offering was so closely connected with the sin that their names became identical. When Hosea says of the priests, "They eat up the sin of My people" that same word, "chattath," is used as occurs elsewhere for "sin offering." Hosea 4:8.
Sin offerings are first mentioned in connection with the consecration of Aaron and his Sons. Ex. 29:14. They are not, however, mentioned as something new. It may, therefore, be taken for granted that sin offerings were already in existence at that time.
It should be noted that sin offerings sufficed only for sins done through ignorance. Lev. 4:2,13,22,27. They concerned sins of errors, mistakes, or rash acts, of which the sinner was unaware at the time, but which afterward became known to him. They did not provide for sins done consciously, knowingly, and persistently. When Israel sinned deliberately, as in worshipping the golden calf, and defiantly refused God's mercy when Moses called them to repentance, punishment was meted out. "There fell of the people that day about three thousand men." Ex. 32:28.
Concerning conscious or presumptuous sin, the law reads: "But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken His commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him." Num. 15:30,31. To this law there are some exceptions, however, which will be noted in the chapter on trespass offerings.
The fourth chapter of Leviticus discusses the matter of sin offerings. Four classes of offenders are mentioned: The anointed priest (verses 3-12), the whole congregation (verses 13, 21), the ruler (verses 22-26), one of the common people (verses 27-35). The sacrifices demanded were not the same in all cases, nor was the blood disposed of in the same manner. If the anointed priest sinned "according to the sin of the people," or as the American Revised Version reads, "so as to bring guilt on the peoples," he was to bring "a young bullock without blemish unto the Lord for a sin offering." Lev. 4:3. If the whole congregation of Israel sinned through ignorance, they also were to "offer a young bullock for the sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation." Verse 14. If one of the rulers sinned, he was to bring "a kid of the goats, a male without blemish." Verse 23. If one of the common people sinned through ignorance, he was to bring "a kid of the goats, a female without blemish." Verse 28. In case he could not bring a goat, he might bring a lamb, also a female. Verse 32.
In each case the sinner was to provide the offering, lay his hand upon the head of the animal and kill it. When the whole congregation sinned, the assembly was to provide the offering, and the elders were to place their hands upon the head of the bullock.
In the disposition of the blood, there is a difference that should be noted. If the anointed priest sinned and brought his bullock and killed it, the priest should "dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord, before the veil of the sanctuary." Verse 6. He should also put "some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." Verse 7.
This instruction is specific. As the bullock was killed, the priest caught the blood, and some of it was taken into the first apartment of the sanctuary. There the blood was sprinkled seven times before the Lord, before the veil of the sanctuary and also put upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense which stood in the first apartment. The rest of the blood was poured out at the foot of the altar of burnt offering in the court.
When the whole congregation sinned, the blood was disposed of in the same manner. Some of it was taken into the first apartment of the sanctuary and sprinkled before the veil. The horns of the altar of incense were touched with the blood, and the rest of the blood was poured out at the foot of the altar of burnt offering outside the court. Verse 18.
When a ruler sinned, the blood was disposed of differently. The record reads: "The priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out his blood at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering." Verse 25. In this case the blood was not carried into the sanctuary and sprinkled before the veil. It was put upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering in the court, and the rest poured out at the bottom of the same altar.
The same was done with the blood when one of the common people sinned. The blood was put upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering and the rest poured out at the bottom of the altar. Verses 30,34. In each of these cases the fat was removed from the carcass and burned upon the altar of burnt offering. Verses 8-10,19,26,31,35. The carcass, however, was treated differently in the different cases. If the anointed priest sinned, the "skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with his head, and with his legs, and his inwards, and his dung, even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn him on the wood with fire: where the ashes are poured out shall he be burnt." Verses 11,12. The same was to be done with the carcass of the bullock offered for the sin offering of the whole congregation. The carcass was carried without the camp to a clean place and there burned on the wood with fire. Verse 21.
There is no instruction in the chapter under consideration as to what was done with the carcass when a ruler or one of the common people sinned. In the sixth chapter of Leviticus, however, in "the law of the sin offering," is found some further instruction. "In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the Lord: it is most holy. The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it: in the holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation." Lev.6:25,26. This statement is illuminating. The priest that offered the sin offering was to eat it. He was to eat it in a holy place, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation. Verse 29 states: "All the males among the priests shall eat thereof: it is most holy." There is an exception to this, however: "No sin offering, whereof any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of the congregation to reconcile withal in the holy place, shall be eaten: it shall be burnt in the fire." Verse 30.
It will be remembered that when the anointed priest or the whole congregation sinned, the blood was carried into the first apartment of the sanctuary, and there sprinkled before the veil. Some of the blood was also put upon the horns of the altar of incense in the holy place. In these cases the blood was brought into the tabernacle of the congregation in the holy place. These two cases, therefore, are referred to in the statement: "No sin offering, whereof any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of the congregation to reconcile withal in the holy place, shall be eaten: it shall be burnt in the fire." When the anointed priest or the whole congregation sinned, the blood was carried into the holy place; the flesh was not eaten, but the carcass was taken outside the camp and burned.
When a ruler or one of the congregation sinned, the blood was put upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering and the rest poured out at the foot of the altar. The flesh was not burned on the altar, nor was it taken outside the camp to be burned as in the case of the bullock. It was given to the priests to be eaten in a holy place.
That this arrangement was not an arbitrary command without any special meaning, is clear from an incident recorded in the tenth chapter of Leviticus. Verses 16 to 18 read: "Moses diligently sought the goat of the sin offering and, behold, it was burnt: and he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron which were left alive, saying, Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin offering in the holy place, seeing it is most holy, and God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord? Behold, the blood of it was not brought in within the holy place: ye should indeed have eaten it in the holy place, as I commanded."
The reader remembers that whenever a bullock was used as a sin offering -- as in the case of the anointed priests or of the whole congregation -- the carcass was taken outside the camp and burned. Not so, however, in the case of the goat or the lamb. When a ruler or one of the common people sinned, the blood of the goat or lamb was not taken into the sanctuary, but the flesh was eaten by the priests. The verses quoted before give the reason for this: "God hath given it [the flesh] you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord."
According to this the priests, by eating the flesh, took upon themselves the iniquity of the congregation; that is, they carried the sins of the people. The reason given for eating the flesh is this: "The blood of it was not brought in within the holy place: ye should indeed have eaten it in the holy place, as I commanded." 'When the blood was brought into the first apartment of the sanctuary, it was not necessary to eat the flesh. But, if the blood was not brought into the sanctuary, the priests were to eat the flesh, and in eating it, to bear the iniquity of the congregation. The sins were thus transferred from the people to the priesthood.
Some have been in doubt as to whether sin was ever transferred to the tabernacle by means of the blood, and whether it is possible for one to bear another's sins. The case before us is conclusive. Either the blood must be brought into the sanctuary and there sprinkled before the veil, or else the flesh must be eaten. "God has given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation to make atonement for them before the Lord." In eating the flesh the priests took upon themselves the sins which by the laying on of hands and by confession had been transferred from the sinner to the animal. The eating of the flesh was not necessary in cases where the blood was brought into the sanctuary. In such cases the sins were effectively disposed of by the carrying in of the blood into the sanctuary and in the sprinkling of it before the veil. The carcass was taken without the camp to a clean place and there burned.
The sequel of this incident as recorded in verses 19 and 20 of chapter 10 is also interesting. Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar had not eaten the flesh of the sin offering as they should have done. Aaron explained their breach by saying that a calamity had befallen him. Two of his sons, while under the influence of wine, had been killed while officiating before the Lord, as recorded in the first part of chapter 10. Aaron and the two sons who remained were apparently not entirely guiltless. While they perhaps did not partake of the wine, they were probably in perplexity about the justice of the judgement that had come upon their brothers and fellow priests. In that condition they did not feel that they could carry any one else's sins. They had enough in carrying their own. It was with this in mind that Aaron asked, "If I had eaten the sin offering today, should it have been accepted in the sight of the Lord?" "When Moses heard that, he was content." Verses 19,20. From this we may rightly draw the conclusion that God did not expect the priests to eat the sin offering and thus carry the sins of the people unless they themselves were clean. "Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord."
As noted above, in the critical study that of late years has been given to many parts of the Bible, doubt has been thrown upon the question of transfer of sin. While it is clear that in each case the sinner was to place his hands upon the sacrifice, it is denied that this indicated either a confession or a transfer of sin. It must be admitted, however, that something happened to the man who brought his sin offering. In each case mentioned in the fourth chapter of Leviticus, except that of the anointed priest, it is said that atonement was made and that the sin "shall be forgiven him." Lev. 4:20,26,31,35. The man was forgiven his sin, and went away free.
It was not to the man only, however, that something happened. In some way the priests came to bear the sins that the man had borne before. The man had sinned. He had confessed his sin and been forgiven. But now the priests bear the sin. How was that transfer made? The inference seems clear. The man, the sinner, had placed his hands upon the innocent animal, had confessed his sin, and thus, in a figure, transferred his sin to the animal. Being a sinner, or at least made to bear sin, the animal was killed. The priest, in eating the flesh, took upon himself sinful flesh, and thus carried the "iniquity of the congregation."
That guilt was transferred on the Day of Atonement is clearly stated. "Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness." Lev. 16:21. Here it is stated definitely that Aaron is to lay his hands on the head of the goat, that he is to confess over him the sins of the children of Israel and that he is to put these sins on the head of the goat. May we not believe that this is exactly the meaning in the case of the sin offering mentioned in the fourth chapter of Leviticus? That in some way the priests came to bear the iniquity of the congregation is clear. The statement to that effect is very emphatic. It is also clear that it was through the eating of the flesh that they took the sin upon themselves. This sin, of course, was not the sin of the animal, but of the sinner who had brought his sin offering for the purpose of forgiveness. The argument seems complete. The sinner originally bore his sins. Now the priests bear them. They received them by, eating the flesh of the animal. We therefore hold that the Bible teaches the doctrine of the transfer of sin.
The laying of the hands of the sinner upon the offering doubtless had a wider meaning, especially in the case of burnt offerings and peace offerings. After the sinner had confessed and had been forgiven, he was brought into fellowship with his God. A clear understanding of this truth is essential to a comprehension of the sacrifices involved.
Sin offerings were used in other cases besides those mentioned in the fourth chapter of Leviticus. An instance of this is the consecration of Aaron and his sons, as recorded in the eighth chapter of Leviticus. It is to be noted here, however, that it is Moses who performs the ceremony, and not the priest. Aaron and his sons, indeed, lay their hands upon the head of the bullock for the sin offering and kill it, but it is Moses who administers the blood and puts it upon the horns of the altar round about. It should also be noted that in this case, instead of polluting the altar, the blood purifies it. "Moses took the blood, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about with his finger, and purified the altar, and poured the blood at the bottom of the altar, and sanctified it, to make reconciliation upon it." Lev. 8:15.
At the completion of the seven days of consecration of Aaron, a sin offering was commanded. Aaron was to take a young calf for a sin offering for himself before beginning his ministrations for the people. "Aaron therefore went unto the altar, and slew the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself. And the sons of Aaron brought the blood unto him: and he dipped his finger in the blood, and put it upon the horns of the altar, and poured out the blood at the bottom of the altar." Lev. 9:8,9. "And the flesh and the hide he burnt with fire without the camp." Lev. 9:11.
There were other occasions upon which sin offerings were required. After childbirth, a young pigeon or a turtledove was to be brought for a sin offering. Lev. 12:6-8. In cases of defilement the Nazarite was to offer a turtledove or a young pigeon for a sin offering. Num. 6:10. Also, when the days of separation were fulfilled, the Nazarite was to bring one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin offering. Verse 14. At the consecration and cleansing of the Levites, a young bullock was required for a sin offerings. Num. 8:8,12. A sin offering was required at the feast of the new moon (Num. 28:15), at the Passover (verse 22), at Pentecost (verse 30), on the first day of the seventh month (Num. 29.5), on the tenth, fifteenth, and twenty second day also. Verses 10-38.
The ceremony of the red heifer deserves special consideration. It differed in many respects from the regular sin offerings; yet it served the same purpose. Numbers 19:9 says: "It is a purification for sin." The word here used is the same used elsewhere for sin offering. The American Revised Version reads: "It is a sin offering." We therefore include the red heifer among the sin offerings commanded by God.
Israel was commanded to bring a red heifer, spotless and without blemish, and give it to Eleazar the priest. Num. 19:2,3. The priest was to bring the heifer without the camp and have some one kill it in his presence. The priest was then to take the blood with his finger and sprinkle the blood toward the tabernacle of the congregation seven times. Verse 4. After this was done, one was to burn the heifer before Eleazar, "her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn." Verse 5. As the heifer was thus being consumed, the priest was to take "cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer." Verse 6. Then the priest was to wash his clothes, bathe his flesh, and come back to the camp, and be unclean until evening. Verse 7. After this a man that was clean should gather up the ashes of the heifer and lay them up without the camp in a clean place. It was to be "a water of separation: it is a purification of sin." Verse 9.
The ashes thus kept were to be used in certain kinds of uncleanness, as the touching of a dead body. In such a case, the ashes were to be taken "and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel; and a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave: and the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even." Num. 19:17-19.
It will be noted that while this ceremony was "a purification for sin," no blood as such was used in the cleansing of the man from his defilement. The only time the use of blood is mentioned is at the time of the killing of the heifer when the priests took the blood and sprinkled it seven times before the tabernacle of the congregation. Verse 4. In the application to the individual person, however, there was no sprinkling of blood.
It should also be noted that the heifer was not killed within the confines of the court of the tabernacle where the other sacrifices were killed. The blood was not carried into the tabernacle, the blood was not sprinkled before the veil, it was not put on the horns of the altar of incense, it was not put on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, nor was it poured out at the altar of burnt offering; it did 'not come in direct contact with either the holy place or the altar of burnt offering.
In the ritual of cleansing it was required that a clean person officiate. Still another point is that this cleansing availed not only for the children of Israel, but also for the stranger. "It shall be unto the children of Israel and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute forever." Verse 10.
It may be well to note the statement recorded in Numbers 19:13, that the tabernacle was defiled if a man did not purify himself. "Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the Lord." "But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the Lord: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean." Num. 19:13,20. That the sanctuary was defiled by confession of sin and sprinkling of blood is admitted by all. Here the statement is made that a man who does not purify himself, who does not confess his sin, defiles the sanctuary of the Lord. The doctrinal import of this statement should not be overlooked.
The occasional ceremony of the red heifer has deep significance for the reverent student of God's word. Purification from sin is here accomplished by the use of water in which ashes from the slain heifer have been put. This cleansing is for the stranger as well as for the children of Israel. Its ministration is without the camp apart from the ordinary worship of Jehovah, and is not directly connected with the usual round of the sanctuary service.
It is to this ceremony that the writer of Hebrews refers, when he says: "If the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" Heb. 9:13,14. David's prayer is: "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." Ps. 51:7.
A somewhat similar use of water for purposes of purification is mentioned in the fifth chapter of the book of Numbers. In case of certain sins, "the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water." Verse 17. The "holy water" thus prepared is called "bitter water" in verses 18, 19, 23. While it is not necessary to go into detail concerning the distressing ceremony mentioned in this chapter, we call attention to the twenty-third verse. The priest was to write these curses in a book, and then "blot them out with the bitter water."
While blood is mentioned in the Old Testament as the purification for sin, water is mentioned in the same way. The laver situated just before the tabernacle; the water used in the ceremony of the red heifer; the bitter water used for blotting out sin as recorded in the fifth chapter of Numbers, testify to the use of water for ceremonial cleansing. Of Christ it is written, "This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood." 1John 5:6. At the crucifixion "one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith there came out blood and water, and he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true that ye might believe." John 19:34,35. The baptismal water, the precious ordinance of humility, does still "save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God)." 1Peter 3:21.